Concerns over World Bank-Google collaboration

Yesterday Owen Barder, Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development, expressed concern regarding the openness of the Google-World Bank mapping project, pointing out that data used to create the maps should be available for anyone to access and use.

Last month in the New York Times, Caroline Anstey, Managing Director at the World Bank, told of the important project underway between the World Bank and Google, which aims to populate maps with the locations of public services in the developing world via crowd-sourcing:

‘The bank and its development partners — developing country governments and U.N. agencies — will be able to access Google Map Maker’s global mapping platform, allowing the collection, viewing, search and free access to data of geo-information in over 150 countries and 60 languages’

This could be an excellent example of harnessing public knowledge and creating a useful tool for many varied stakeholders to use. But, as yesterday’s blog by Barder highlights – there is currently a problem with the way the data is licensed. At the moment, once data goes into the Google Map Maker, it becomes the property of Google, and will not be freely available via any channel other than the Map Maker. The Bank has requested ‘a blanket permission from Google to provide NGOs, humanitarian groups, and other non-commercial entities with the data whenever they need it’, but whether that will be granted is yet to be seen. We hope that this permission is written into the agreement, and the agreement itself made public as soon as possible.

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